Common ground - The Orca

Common ground

Dene Moore

Dene Moore: A correction from last week, as the BC Forestry Alliance looks to ways to build a sustainable industry.

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

  • Winston Churchill

I made a mistake.

In my previous column, I wrote about my concern that a petition by a group called the BC Forestry Alliance might suggest that British Columbia’s parks and protected areas should be opened up to timber harvesting.

And while I stand by my rejection of the idea, it turns out I have allies in the Alliance members who wrote the petition and the 8,000 people who signed it – not opponents.

“We had zero intention of looking at going after parks,” says Carl Sweet, one of the petition authors and a key organizer of the BC Forestry Alliance.

“I hunt, I fish, I play out in the parks. I enjoy walking through old growth trees,” says Carl, an equipment salesman in Campbell River with many friends and customers in the forest industry.

“We had zero intention of looking at going after parks.”

“I don’t think there’s a single person that I know who would want to see the last old-growth cut down or the last tree logged on Vancouver Island.”

What the group is looking for is some measure of protection for the “working forest” – the area that has been open to timber harvesting and can sustainably be harvested again and again, he says.

Similar to the way the Agricultural Land Reserve protects land for agricultural use, Sweet and his colleagues at the Alliance believe that the working forests need the same protections.

“We’re continually seeing the erosion of the harvestable land base. Our ask of government was to start looking at protecting the harvestable land base, or the working forest,” Carl told me this week.

“We don’t want to say we want the Great Bear Rainforest back and log it until there’s nothing left. That’s absolutely not what we’re asking.

“We want to see protected areas, but we also want to make sure that there is a land base that our communities and our families can rely on in future for harvesting activities.”

While the strike is over, most have yet to return to work and likely won’t be able to do so until warmer weather.

The petition is asking government to ensure that the harvestable area is not decreased, he says. That protection, he says, will give investors the peace-of-mind to invest in sustainable, second-growth forestry in B.C.

The petition is also meant to send a message to the Old Growth Strategic Review panel, which is to report back to the province this spring with recommendations for old-growth management in B.C.

“Forestry is sustainable,” Sweet says. “Why do we need to continue to erode that land base?”

On coastal British Columbia, about 30 per cent of the land base is currently open to and suitable for logging.

“We’ll leave the parks where they’re at and make sure that 30 per cent is managed properly for future generations. That would be the best-case scenario.”

Sweet says his group has met with Forests Minister Doug Donaldson several times, including one meeting since the Alliance rally at the legislature on budget day.

“They’re listening. They understand,” he says.

Sweet says many of the members of the Alliance were affected by the nearly eight-month strike at Western Forest Products in northern Vancouver Island. And while the strike is over, most have yet to return to work and likely won’t be able to do so until warmer weather brings access to higher-altitude cut blocks.

B.C. has yet to capitalize on forestry as a sustainable carbon-reduction measure, he says.

“Nobody wants to see all the trees cut down. There’s got to be a balance and I think we have that balance where we can manage it sustainably, we can leave old-growth there.”

Dene Moore is an award-winning journalist and writer. A news editor and reporter for The Canadian Press news agency for 16 years, Moore is now a freelance journalist living in the South Cariboo. Moore’s two decades in daily journalism took her as far afield as Kandahar as a war correspondent and the Innu communities of Labrador. She has worked in newsrooms in Vancouver, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, St. John’s and Edmonton. She has been published in the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine, the New York Times and the Toronto Star, among others. She is a Habs fan and believes this is the year.


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